Along with leaving behind their home and facing an unknown future, Ukrainian women and children are also at risk of human trafficking, a dangerous by-product of the country’s conflict-fuelled refugee crisis. A survey by World Vision's office in Romania, a country receiving large numbers of Ukrainian refugees, has confirmed the prevalence of human trafficking in the country. A study of 200 girls from Romania, aged 14-19, found 97% of respondents had heard of instances of human trafficking, with more than half (53%) believing women are most at risk.
When asked how they would describe human trafficking in Romania, 72% said prostitution, being kidnapped (67%), being bought or sold (65%), forced labour (34%) and forced begging (30%).
World Vision is actively responding both inside Ukraine through distributing urgently needed food and hospital supplies, as well as providing support to refugees at a number of border crossings in Romania, since the onset of the conflict.
World Vision Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office Regional Leader Eleanor Monbiot OBE - who has been leading World Vision's response to the Ukraine crisis and many other ongoing conflicts, such as Syria and Afghanistan – says:
"Even before this conflict, areas of Eastern Europe had posed a high risk to vulnerable women of falling victim to human trafficking. But the Ukrainian conflict is causing many more women to become vulnerable to trafficking. Displacement, suddenly falling into extreme poverty, being widowed, losing, or being separated from family members and many other characteristics of this conflict, are creating countless more vulnerable women every hour.
"This International Women's Day, the number of women who are at risk of traffickers capitalising on their vulnerabilities is growing exponentially. This could be done through fraudulent travel and/or employment arrangements.
"In recent years, we have seen that the majority of human trafficking victims detected in Europe have come from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, in particular Ukraine, Romania Bulgaria, Russia and Moldova."